Beauty and the Beast Sets Box Office Record; TNH Interviews Writer Evan Spiliotopoulos 

Disney's Beauty and the Beast opens on March 17. Photo: movies.disney.com

By Eleni Sakellis

NEW YORK – Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is making history with its $170 million opening weekend at the box office in the US and $350 million globally.

The film is an updated version of the animated classic that made history a quarter of a century ago when it was the first animated film to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

The new live-action version, written by Evan Spiliotopoulos who spoke with The National Herald about the film, delighted fans of the original and those new to the story. Spiliotopoulos told TNH on Sunday, Mar. 19, “We are just incredibly happy with the audience response to this film and we worked very hard to do right by the animated masterpiece as well as put our own stamp on this classic story.”

For those unfamiliar with the story, the plot summary is straightforward-  A young prince, imprisoned in the form of a beast, can be freed only by true love. What may be his only opportunity arrives when he meets Belle, the only human girl to ever visit the castle since it was enchanted.

The film expands on the animated version, adding depth to the characters and some new songs. Starring an enchanting Emma Watson as Belle and a wonderful Dan Stevens as the Beast, the film is one of the few in recent memory to inspire cheers and applause from the audience in the movie theatre. It is as delightful as fans of the story and the 1991 film could have hoped. Many are indeed still singing the songs a day or two after having seen the film.

The tremendously talented all-star cast includes Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson. The emotional journey the audience takes along with the characters is impressive. We laughed, cried, cheered, and then left singing the songs, and asking what exactly is the Beast’s name? He is called Prince, but Prince what? Some sources suggest Prince Adam, but Spiliotopoulos was able to clear things up. He said, “Nope. He has no name. The Adam thing is a myth.”

By any name, the character and the fairy tale have enchanted audiences worldwide since the story first appeared in a collection of fairy tales in France in the 1700’s. Though, according to research from universities in Durham and Lisbon, the story may be much older, perhaps 4,000 years old, as reported in the BBC. Since then, Beauty and the Beast has been rewritten and remade many times, but the core of the story, the transformative power of love, and not judging people by their outward appearance alone, remains a valuable lesson.

Dan Stevens as The Beast in a live-action adaptation of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.” (Disney via AP)

Belle is also an avid reader which sets a positive example for young children, especially young girls. In this new version, she even takes the time to teach a young girl to read, though it only serves to cement the village’s opinion of her as strange.

Cinema buffs will notice the nod to the 1946 French film classic La Belle et la Bête by Jean Cocteau which starred Josette Day as the Beauty and Jean Marais as the Beast.

The film’s soundtrack features all the favorites from the animated classic plus four new original songs. Among them, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” sung beautifully by Celine Dion who sang the film’s title song duet with Peabo Bryson in the 1991 version, and “Evermore” a poignant song sung by the Beast, was also recorded by Josh Groban for the soundtrack.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is rated PG and is in theatres now.